Conservative boycott shuts down….

…. Afghan detainee hearing.

Steven Chase

Ottawa — The Globe and Mail

The Harper government has effectively shuttered a parliamentary committee probing the treatment of suspects rounded up by Canadian soldiers and handed over to Afghan interrogators.

The fact that all Conservatives MPs boycotted today’s meeting means the Commons special committee cannot officially meet and investigate allegations that detainees were transferred to torture at the hands of Afghan’s notorious intelligence service.

At least one government MP must be present for meeting and the absence of all Tory MPs prevents it.

The Tories said there’s no urgency to hold more hearings before Christmas.

“It’s not the time to be having meetings that are implying, intentioned or not, that Canadians are somehow guilty of war crimes,” Laurie Hawn, the parliamentary secretary for the Defence Minister, said on CTV’s Power Play after the aborted meeting.

The Conservatives had beaten back calls for a public inquiry into Afghan detainees by saying the matter should instead be handled by the special committee.

Today’s boycott comes days after the Harper government also defied an extremely rare Commons motion that has the force of a subpoena and calls on them to release confidential records on detainees.

It also comes less than a week after the departing head of a separate inquiry into detainees fired a salvo at the Tories.

Peter Tinsley, the outgoing head of a commission probing the Afghan detainee controversy said Friday that Ottawa’s refusal to extend his term so he could finish the job contributes to a “chilling effect” on cabinet-appointed watchdogs charged with keeping government accountable.

Mr. Tinsley’s chairmanship of the Military Police Complaints Commission expired December 11.

The Tories are fighting opposition attempts to follow the paper trail surrounding detainees after stunning military revelations last Wednesday that a Canadian-captured detainee was abused in June, 2006, after being handed over to the Afghans, contrary to Tory government assurances that there was no evidence prisoners were tortured.

The long-simmering issue was reignited in mid-November when diplomat Richard Colvin told a Parliamentary committee that all detainees captured by Canadians were likely tortured after being transferred to Afghan hands in 2006 and early 2007.

The Harper government responded with attacks on Mr. Colvin’s credibility, an onslaught that last week brought a letter of protest from former ambassadors.

Speaking to reporters on Dec. 11, Mr. Tinsley said it was unprecedented for the Harper government to forgo reappointment during a significant inquiry. He said the interruption will hurt the probe’s ability to do its job.

The Tories said they plan to appoint a new chair soon, but critics have raised concerns Mr. Tinsley’s successor will not be as enthusiastic to press ahead.

The commission has run into a string of roadblocks federal lawyers have used to delay and severely limit the scope of its probe.

Mr. Tinsley suggested a bigger problem is the Harper government’s attitude to the heads of watchdog agencies, who are appointed on the advice of cabinet. He cited the example of Linda Keen, the former head of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, who was fired in 2008.

“Lack of co-operation by the government, or resistance [to] the roles of administrative tribunals, and the effect on the [cabinet] appointees, can have nothing but a … chilling effect across the field.”

Mr. Tinsley said the fear is that watchdog chairs could be cowed by “an environment where the government of the day sends signals that if you don’t guess right what the government of the day wants” there will be consequences.

Rick Casson, the Tory chair of the Commons committee on Afghanistan, could not be immediately reached for comment.

Note: Somebody tell me we are not becoming a Fascist state, ruled by a want-to-be Führer having legions of Taser toting Gestapo police ready and willing to ‘enforce’ good order and government. The similarities are startling! Wake up people!! We got a bunch of ‘scary’ bad guys running things!

Politics and strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles.

from John Prince
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